Matchup Winners: Bills' first-down passes went south after Charles Clay injury - The Buffalo News

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Matchup Winners: Bills' first-down passes went south after Charles Clay injury

BENGALS-BILLS MATCHUP WINNERS

Bills vs. Bengals first-down defense

The Bills first-down passing game went south after tight end Charles Clay got hurt. There was no need for the Bengals to respect the Bills' passing game, especially with Jordan Matthews injured and out of the lineup. Rick Dennison had a difficult task of manufacturing something on first down against a Cincy defense that ranked fourth in the NFL in first-down yards allowed (4.39 a play).

Buffalo ran 13 times for 71 yards on first down, a 5.5-yard average. Only one of the 13 runs went for fewer than 3 yards. The first-down pass game is where the Bills faltered. After the series on which Clay went out, the Bills got just 9 net yards on nine first-down pass plays. On the first three drives with Clay in the game, Tyrod Taylor was 3 of 5 for 57 yards on first-down passes.

A.J. Green vs. Tre'Davious White

The Bengals' six-time Pro Bowler got the better of the battle against the Bills' No. 1 draft choice. Green caught seven passes for 189 yards and a touchdown. He was targeted 13 times. One could argue the Bengals should have targeted him more, given the fact the Bills were without starting cornerback E.J. Gaines and then lost slot corner Leonard Johnson to a hamstring injury in the second quarter.

White hesitated on the 77-yard TD pass to Green in the first quarter. That was the 39th catch of 40-plus yards of Green's seven-year career. Then Green added a 40th when he converted a 47-yard catch-and-run against White in the third quarter. White gave up one other completion to Green, a 7-yard slant. Green had three catches against Shareece Wright and one with Greg Maybin in coverage. (He fumbled after that catch.)

Bills LBs vs. Bengals RBs

The Bills' linebacking corps passed another test, with help from stout defensive line play. The Bengals talked a lot this week about getting the run game going and quickly getting the ball out of Andy Dalton's hands.

Cincinnati's lead running back, Joe Mixon, averaged just 3.4 yards on 15 carries. Taking away Dalton's kneel-downs, the Bills held the Bengals to just 2.8 yards a carry. First-down runs were no good for the Bengals. They ran 16 times for just 40 yards, a 2.5-yard average (not counting kneel-downs).

Bengals running back Giovanni Bernard is a quick, dangerous receiver out of the backfield. But the Bengals did not game plan to try to beat the Bills' linebackers in coverage. Bernard was targeted on just two passes (which went for 30 yards). Rookie Matt Milano subbed for injured Ramon Humber but was not victimized. Preston Brown had eight tackles.

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